The Future of Rural Farms, Ranches, & Businesses

The average age of an Oregon farmer is 60 years old, and in the next two decades, over 10 million acres (or 64%) of Oregon’s agricultural land will change hands. Additionally, the price of farmland is rising, fewer skilled next-generation farmers are prepared to take over, and non-farm uses and fragmentation of farmland are challenging Oregon’s treasured agricultural heritage. This session will take a deep dive into the issues, challenges, and implications of this massive transfer of land ownership and how one Pacific Northwest State is keeping working lands in active production. Join farmers, ranchers, and policy makers in a discussion of how recent legislation is working to create tools and resources for rural communities and engage in solutions-oriented conversations on future strategies.


Senator Bill Hansell
Senator Bill Hansell is serving in his second term in the state legislature representing District 29, which encompasses parts of seven counties located in Eastern Oregon. His district is rural and is the third largest in Oregon, the size of the State of Maryland. Previously, Senator Hansell served as a Umatilla County Commissioner, being elected to eight consecutive terms. During his service he was President of the National Association of Counties, President of the Association of Oregon Counties, and served on various boards and committees. Hansell was born and raised in Athena where his family has farmed for four generations. He and his wife Margaret have been married 50 years and have raised six grown children and are proud grandparents to nine grandchildren.

Mark Bennett
Commissioner Mark Bennett is a rancher and County Commissioner in Baker County, Oregon. He serves on the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission as a representative of natural resource interests. Along with his wife Patti, Mark manages an 8,000-acre ranch near Unity, Oregon. Mark believes that raising quality natural beef and conservation go hand in hand, and has made improvements on his property to improve water and forage quality, and fish and wildlife habitat, including habitat for the greater sage-grouse.

Nellie McAdams
A fifth-generation Oregonian, Nellie McAdams is training to take over her family’s hazelnut farm in Gaston. She is also an attorney and the Farm Preservation Program Director at the Oregon nonprofit Rogue Farm Corps. In this role, she works with partners statewide to help farmers and ranchers pass on their legacies of land and businesses to the next generation. Nellie also coordinates the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program at the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

Diana Tourney
Diana Tourney grew up on a farm and has more than nine years of advising experience helping businesses grow and thrive. She is now an adviser and instructor at the Clackamas Small Business Development Center (SBDC), where she has counseled more than 100 rancher/farmer/growers on topics including succession planning. Diana has a passion to help agricultural business owners, and brings extensive financial experience to the SBDC and helps clients better understand how to improve profitability using financial data.

Jared Gardner
Jared Gardner is a rancher from the North Coast of Oregon and a consultant in the areas of access to capital and finance policy. He has worked on policy campaigns in five states with successes at the city, county, and state levels in the areas of economic development for family farmers and small businesses, divestment/investment, and state level economic development programs. Jared and his wife run Nehalem River Ranch, raising grass-fed beef and pastured pork for restaurants and customers.

Track: Elevating Rural Voices & Priorities

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